The worst legislation often is created from a sense of frustration after a major event - forced by the natural inclination of those in government to be seen Doing Something to fix a real or perceived problem.
Legislating by emotional knee-jerks can create even more trouble when those writing laws nibble around the edges of need rather that tackling a bigger picture.
But sometimes the reaction to a crisis - getting intelligence agencies to share information after 9-11, or revamping FEMA after Katrina - fills gaps that otherwise would go unnoticed.
And that's why Letitie Clark, of Martinez, is in Washington this week. There is a gap in our nation's gun laws, and she's lobbying to have it filled.
Clark, you might remember, is the mother of Lakeside High School graduate Ryan Clark. A stellar student and leader, Clark was the first person gunned down April 16 in the horrific shootings on the campus of Virginia Tech.
As a resident assistant in one of VT's dorms, Clark was coming to the aid of a fellow student when he was shot and killed by Cho Seung-Hui, who went on to kill 31 other people and himself in the nation's worst-ever campus shooting.
Reaction to the massacre included more than a little hysteria, but it also brought about HR 2640. That congressional resolution, which has passed the U.S. House but has yet to move through the Senate, would strengthen existing background checks to make it far more difficult for mentally disturbed people to get access to guns.
"After these heinous shootings, we learned that in December 2005, a Virginia court found the killer to be both mentally ill and dangerous, an order that should have prohibited him from buying firearms," Mrs. Clark writes in a letter to members of Congress. But, she laments, because the information was not entered into the system that provides background checks on gun buyers, "a seriously disturbed and violent young man purchased guns unimpeded, with deadly consequences."
Mrs. Clark is lobbying Congress for passage of HR 2640. And for those worried about infringement on gun rights, here's a comforting point: The National Rifle Association supports HR 2640. The gun-rights organization notes that the bill simply "requires reporting of available records on people who are prohibited from possessing firearms under the existing law," and that it does not create any new "classes" of prohibited persons.
Mrs. Clark deserves praise for fighting to make it more difficult for mentally disturbed people, such as the young man who shot her son, to legally buy weapons.
She's defending victims yet to come with her efforts, as her son was doing that day in April. We believe he'd be as proud of his mother as she is of him.
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